08:00AM, Thursday 17 June 2021
Thames Valley Police will launch a new crackdown on sexual harassment in Windsor and Maidenhead.
As part of Project Vigilant, both uniformed and undercover officers will be carrying out local patrols to identify people who may be displaying signs of predatory behaviour.
The undercover officers will be able to identify the kinds of behaviour that people normally would not do if they can see uniformed police in the area.
This will help allow officers to spot when these activities are occurring, intervene and redirect those responsible.
Officers will be on the lookout for individuals engaged in inappropriate touching and ‘stalking’ behaviours. This can include following someone and persistent unwanted conversation.
Loitering will also draw police action, if individuals are hanging around for a period of time with no apparent purpose, as this may be a sign of an intent to sexually offend.
In some cases, people travel specifically to the area in order to do so.
If necessary, police can use antisocial behaviour powers to disperse people from town and will also make arrests in extreme cases.
Predatory activity is most commonly seen outside pubs and bars at night, especially in the early hours of the morning as club-goers are starting to head home.
It is commonly seen around taxi ranks, where people may become separated from their friends.
The aim of the project is to prevent sexual offending by targeting potential offenders and engaging them in the very early stages of this behaviour, disrupting it.
“Often people won’t appreciate the impact their behaviour will have on someone else. The effect can’t be underestimated,” said Detective Chief Inspector James Senior.
“What could be considered ‘lower level’ harassment is actually very impactful.”
In 2019 a similar project launched in Oxford over the course of six months saw incidents of rape cut in half and other kinds of sex offences reduced by 30 per cent.
According to DCI Senior, even most of those engaged by the police felt reassured that police were taking the issue seriously and focusing on perpetrators.
The project is being launched because the nightlife scene is due to open up again, rather than because of any recent increase in sexual offences.
“If you want to come to Maidenhead or Windsor and enjoy a good night out, these are safe places to do so,” said DCI Senior. “You may not always see police officers but we will be there.
“For anyone looking to come to the town to sexually offend – don’t. You will be found and we will be taking action against you.”
Inspector Mike Darrah, based at Maidenhead police station, said:
“Keeping our communities safe is of the
utmost importance and as lockdown restrictions are lifted –we are going to see more people out and about in our local areas.
“The aim of carrying out these patrols is to make Windsor and Maidenhead LPA a hostile place for potential offenders.
“The force works hard to being those that do offend to justice and safeguard victims.”
Project Vigilant launches in Windsor and Maidenhead on Friday, June 25.
If you see someone acting suspiciously, approach an officer, call Thames Valley Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
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